31 May 1915

Today the fate of George Calderon and several thousand other British soldiers at Gallipoli was sealed. Sir Ian Hamilton, Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, decided to fight a general action on the Helles front without waiting for the extra troops promised him by Kitchener, the 52nd (Lowland) Division.

This is described by Peter Hart (Gallipoli, p. 238), as an ‘egregious blunder’, but it is difficult to see that Hamilton had much choice. Every day the Turks were receiving fresh troops and strengthening their positions, so waiting for the 52nd Division might have made no difference. Moreover, the commander of VIII Corps, Lieutenant-General Aylmer Hunter-Weston, assured Hamilton that the recently arrived ‘replacement drafts’ were enough to make a general attack feasible. It was actually an encouraging achievement that since 9 May the units under Hunter-Weston’s control had managed to advance the British front line by nearly half a mile with very low casualties. They were also more rested now than when they had fought the Second Battle of Krithia.

On this day, Hunter-Weston and the French corps commander General Henri Gouraud presented detailed plans for the attack. These will be described over the next few days. They were based on aerial photographs of the Turkish lines translated into an extremely accurate trench diagram, of which I shall give a version on 4 June. Hamilton accepted Hunter-Weston and Gouraud’s plans, but insisted that no attempt must be made to capture Achi Baba in a day. The attacks were to capture the Turks’ forward system of trenches and nowhere advance more than 800 yards.

From our point in time, we can say that the officers of the 9th Ox and Bucks at Fort Brockhurst who volunteered for active service in an unspecified theatre of war had walked straight into a trap, called ‘The Third Battle of Krithia’.

Next entry: 1 June 1915

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About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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